I know I wrote something about this before, probably about a year ago, but it seems worth addressing a second time.
We all like to love and support and help our friends and family, and we all appreciate feeling loved and supported and helped by our friends and family. Totally normal and natural.
Just last week a family member offered to call in a favor with a friend that made a huge difference for our family, and I often consult with friends who know more than I do on any given subject. Nothing surprising about any of that.
Things become slightly more complicated when one of the friends or family members is a lawyer or has some legal training or expertise.*
First, let me just say that most of the time, for most people, it isn’t that we don’t want to help. It might come across that way, and sometimes it might come across that way intentionally, but most of the time, for most people, that’s not really the case. Lawyers (and non-lawyers working in the legal profession or attempting to obtain licensure) have a long and complex set of rules and guidelines, and if we don’t follow them, we can be disbarred, prevented from ever becoming barred, or liable in some other way.
It’s not the same as asking your personal trainer friend if you should add more squats to your rotation, and I don’t mean that in an elitist or snobby way, but in a real and practical way.
Here’s why. First, your personal trainer friend likely did not spend seven years in college and graduate school training to become a personal trainer, and probably did not end up with $100,000+ in debt doing so. This is relevant both because that seven years was spent learning a lot of information about complex issues, and it was an expensive degree that required, in many cases, real personal sacrifice to obtain. Deciding whether to recommend more squats or not likely does not involve a lot of in-depth or complex thinking or research, and no one is going to revoke a personal trainer license (to the extent such a thing exists) if the squats were the wrong call. Analyzing a legal issue, even one that might appear to be straightforward on the surface, is different, and requires analysis of background information and legal issues, and some personal experience. Basically, there is no, “hey, should I add more squats to my workout?” legal question. It’s all complicated.
This is especially so if you are asking a criminal lawyer a question about estate planning, or a corporate lawyer about family law, or a family lawyer about anything that requires a soul. She can’t just “look it up,” or think back to when she last studied for a bar exam, because the law is constantly changing, and the real answer to your question is almost certainly, “it depends.”
I say all of this with some hesitation, because three times now we’ve had to ask a lawyer friend to recommend a lawyer friend, and twice the recommended lawyer friend has offered some basic assistance without expecting anything in return. This is a slightly different thing, and I’m not exactly sure why. I’m not sure it’s quite as simple as taking care of our (their) own, but it’s probably something pretty close. Anyway, I’m grateful for the help that has been offered to me, and I would love to pay it forward one day, in a legal, permissible, and safe way, which requires passing the bar (shit), filling out some other paperwork, and obtaining malpractice insurance.
*Every situation is different, of course. It’s one thing to ask your brother and best friend to look over a simple contract and another to ask someone you met at a baseball game last week to handle a contested divorce agreement or DUI.